When one hears Benjamin Clementine for the first time, there is an element of being transported into another world. His velvety voice has just the right amount of grit in it. His expert piano playing has just enough frenetic energy in it. His interactions with the audience have just enough spontaneity to them. Those lucky enough to fill the room, and balconies, at Koko witnessed something incredible when Benjamin Clementine took the stage. Illuminated by a single shaft of light, bathed in Tyndall scattering, Clementine perched himself on the too-high-stool and wrapped his arms around his torso, as if he had just walked into a chilly, windy Paris metro station. As he unwound himself and placed his fingers upon the keys, gig-goers were instantly transported to his world, to the darkness and brilliance that lives inside Clementine’s mind.
While most of Clementine’s music remains unreleased – and therefore only a few of the songs are recognisable – he manages to convey a part of his soul to the listeners. With narrative-style lyrics, Clementine is not just a musician but a true performer. From the perfectly crafted whispering banter, a jarring juxtaposition to his powerful singing voice, to his request to bring up the house lights so he can see our faces, Clementine’s show was perfect from start to finish. Songs like ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘I Won’t Complain’ stood out amongst the other unknown material, but did not overshadow. Each song stood distinct from the next.
What made the show so brilliant was its minimalism. The sole beam of brilliant white was the only lighting design and, save for the stool and piano, the stage was unadorned. The music took centre stage, and Clementine was simply the vessel through which it was carried – the man, Benjamin Clementine, melted into the darkness. With each cry of “Alone, alone in a box of stone” (Cornerstone) a collective shiver went through the audience. It was the kind of show where the audience and performer are one, where bodies melt away and we all become vessels full of sound and fury and passion and hope. Together we “dream, smile, laugh, and cry.”
Clementine is one of the greatest musicians to grace the stage at Koko. Regardless of how much of his performance was crafted expertly in his own head, an act to maintain an image, his music has such pure honesty and passion that the rest is irrelevant. Simply listening to the tinkling piano keys, the frenzied playing and poignant lyrics is all that matters. Everyone in the room seemed to be aware of this, (except for one exceptionally annoying iPad toting gig-goer who insisted on taking pictures with the brightly illuminated tablet) and respected the fact that we were all experiencing a brilliant moment in music provided to us by the one and only Benjamin Clementine.
Final verdict? 9/10